The What's On guide: Ras Al Khaimah
So you’re thinking about a weekend in Ras Al Khaimah, here’s everything you’ll need to make the most of it…
The northernmost emirate in the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah is as popular for its sandy beaches as it is for its rocky mountains. As well as luxury resorts, you’ll find rich culture and adrenaline fueled adventure to fill your weekend with.
From the coolest activities to the resorts to stay in, here’s your ultimate guide to Ras Al Khaimah.
Where to stay
Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah
If you’re unsure how traditional Arabian hospitality and sleek New York luxury would fuse together, just look to the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. The 346-room, palatial-style property is found on the beachfront of Al Hamra, and makes for the perfect base for a luxe stay in the Northern emirate. From the personal concierge assigned to you from check-in, to the arabesque, majlis-style lobby featuring Arabic calligraphy and accents of mother of pearl, a nod to the emirates’ rich pearl-diving history, the hotel is big on attention-to-detail. Guestrooms are all generous sizes, finished with luxury furnishings, and the sea view rooms grant you front-row seats to some of the UAE’s most spectacular sunsets. The expansive resort features a lagoon-sized swimming pool, luxury spa, no less than 9 restaurants and is adjacent to an 18-hole golf course, meaning you never have to leave the property, should you not wish to.
Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra, Ras Al Khaimah, from Dhs820. Tel: (07) 2035555. waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
Hilton Ras Al Khaimah
Across the resort, Hilton Ras Al Khaimah boasts more than 450 guest rooms, from the standard guest rooms in the main hotel block, to the 150 villa rooms which were upgraded last year. The villa rooms have kept the beachy feel of the rest of the resort, but are updated with some modern touches, including LED TVs, a connectivity panel for controlling the lights and music throughout the rooms and contemporary desks.With no-less than 11 restaurants and bars to choose from, there’s plenty of international cuisines to sample across the resort. Make sure to experience sundowners at Sol – the whitewashed Mediterranean-inspired lounge and bar is at the far end of the resort and sits right on the edge of the beach.
Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa, Al Maareedh Street, Ras Al Khaimah, Rooms start from Dhs449, villa rooms start from Dhs749. hilton.com
Longbeach camp ground (weekends only – seasonal)
Putting the glam into glamping, the Bin Majid Beach Hotel has a series of luxury camping facilities ranging from a Deluxe Tent to Panoramic Dome Suite. The resort is well equipped and the camping area is located directly next to the swimming pool. Activities include beach yoga, seaview aerobics, kite flying, kayaking, waterpark obstacle course, beach volleyball and an outdoor spa and sauna.
Longbeach Campground, Bin Majid Beach Hotel, Ras al Khaimah, UAE, available every Thursday and Friday until April 30, from Dhs799 per night. Tel: (800) 5700 binmajid.com
Where to eat
Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar
You might not immediately put sleek Siddharta Lounge and sleepy Ras Al Khaimah together, but upon arrival at Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar in the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, it all makes perfect sense. The pop-up lounge has arrived for six months at the adults-only pool, and has transformed the beachfront space into a sophisticated lounge complete with day beds, restaurants tables and a contemporary monochrome bar decorated with leafy foliage. By day guests lounge poolside tucking into an Asian fusion menu, while by night the sleek comes alive with lively house beats. The food is fantastic, with a brilliant array of sushi, seafood, crudo and salads to share, with a selection of mains and sides for those looking for something a bit meatier. The atmosphere is brilliant, and Siddharta Lounge ticks all the boxes both day and night in terms of food, drinks, service and views.
Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, daily 11am to 1am. Tel: (07) 2035555. waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
If a stay at one of the private villas at the Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah on Al Hamra beach is slightly out of budget, you can always book for lunch or dinner at Shore House, the aptly named shorefront restaurant at the resort. Reached via buggy from the welcome centre, it offers both romantic tables inside and wooden tables on the decked terrace overlooking the pool if you prefer to dine alfresco (which, weather permitting, we always do). It’s a brilliant spot both day and night, offering a menu of seafood inspired by the local coastline on offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Shore House, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach, daily 7am to midnight. Tel: (07) 204 8888. ritzcarlton.com/alhamrabeach
Puro & Puro Express
With an expansive terrace overlooking the Arabian Gulf, Puro is a great spot to head out to lunch and catch some sun. Located on Marjan Island, Puro is open for breakfast until late, with a simple, tasty menu of pizza, pasta, salads and desserts on offer. It’s sister restaurant, Puro Express is found at the picturesque viewing deck of Jebel Jais, and makes for the perfect pit stop for hikers – or zipliners – to fuel up. A basic menu of sandwiches and pizzas, hot and cold drinks and a handful of desserts, don’t leave without trying the nutella and strawberry waffles.
What to do
A combination of hiking, climbing and ziplining, the Via Ferrata Ras Al Khaimah is an adrenaline-fuelled, adventurous climbing route on Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain. It starts with guests getting kitted out in the Via Ferrata kit with all the ropes and harnesses you’ll need, before a safety briefing starts things off. Groups of 6 to 8 are lead by guides to the foot of the mountain, to begin a climb up Jebel Jais to the first zipline. The route is guided by steel cables, which climbers will be attached to at all times, so don’t worry if your not an experienced climber. There are simpler areas of terrain, and some trickier parts to climb, so shoes with good grip are highly advised. The first zip line is the shortest at 50 metres, followed by one of 60 metres, which leads you to the final zip line, which soars from 70 metres up the mountain across a 300 metre line leading you back towards the bottom of the mountain. The landing area is the start of the descent, although there’s one final climb down until your feet are firmly back on the ground. Climbers can expect a bump and bruise or two, but most importantly a sense of sheer satisfaction at completing the route.
Via Ferrata, Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, 9am or 1pm, Wednesday to Sunday from Dhs170.63. torroverdeuae.com
Jebel Jais Flight
For those seeking a real adrenaline filled adventure, ‘Jebel Jais Flight: The World’s Longest Zipline’ measures 2.83 kilometers long (that’s the equivalent of more than 28 football pitches), and runs through the mountains of Jebel Jais at a hair-raising 1,680 metres above sea level. It’s important to know that ‘fliers’ have to be between 45kg and 150kg in weight and at least 120 cm tall. Once kitted out, you’ll take a trip up to the top of the launching platform, which has been designed to look like a falcon, and stands at a hair-raising 1680 metres above sea level. With a quick safety reminder, you’re strapped in superman style, and off you soar. The 2.83km trip takes then reaches speeds of up to 120km. But the fun doesn’t end when you hit the first suspended platform, as there’s a second part of the zipline. The suspended platform, which has an oh-so insta-worthy transparent floor is stationed 80 metres above the ground. From here, you’ll get to do a secondary 1km zipline which lands you back at the foot of the mountains.
Jebel Jais Flight: The World’s Longest Zipline, Jebel Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, Wednesday to Sunday, from Dhs341. Tel: (07) 204 6250. toroverdeuae.com
Nestled off the coast of Al Rams, a sleepy fishing village on the northern tip of Ras Al Khaimah, Suwaidi Pearls keeps a 7000-year old tradition alive. Run by Abdulla Al Suwaidi, who’s grandfather was one of the last remaining pearl divers in the UAE, a visit to Suwaidi Pearls takes you on an adventure that dates back long before oil trade took over the UAE. You’ll need to take a traditional pearling boat that takes you a 10-minute journey past the pearl farm to a two-storey boat anchored next to the 4000-square metre farm. It’s here that you’ll learn about the vast history of the region, previously known as Julphar, and how the dangerous art of pearl diving was once the heartbeat of the community. You’ll also be educated on how Suwaidi Pearls now farms an impressive 40,000 pearls a year using modern methods, while still keeping the time-old traditions alive. You’ll even be able to open your own oyster, in the hope of finding a precious pearl. Once your tour (roughly two hours) is complete, you’ll take the boat through the mangroves to see the local wildlife, watch camels bathing in the water or, if you’re lucky, spot a turtle or two. Adventurers can also take a kayak and make their way through the mangroves that way.
Suwaidi Pearls, Al Rams, Ras Al Khaimah, daily tours last around 2 to 4 hours, from Dhs300. Tel: (07) 221 1124 . suwaidi-pearls.com
The Wadi Showka trail takes hikers across part of the Hajar Mountains so expect a pretty epic – and elevated – climb. Start from the Showka Dam, which has paved parking and basic facilities. From there, take the stairs through the park and up to the road. Then turn right and keep walking until you see a green staircase made from old tires. That’s the start of the trail. For the most part, it’s a clearly defined route. Look out for a Showka Pools, perfect for cooling off in. If hiking isn’t for you, then you can also mountain bike through the same terrain. Adventurati Tours runs guided MTB trips among the rocky mountains. Expect endless routes of downhill and uphill thrills passing through local farms and wild camels.
Wadi Showka, Hajar Mountains, Ras Al Khaimah. adventurati-outdoor.com
Open for all ages and capabilities, Rak Track is a karting track in the northernmost emirate. You can take karting lessons for adults or children, or use their ‘arrive and drive’ package and make your own way round the track on a solo trip, or racing your friends.
Rak Track, Sheikh Mohammad Bin Salem Rd, Al Jazirah Al Hamra, 3.30pm to 10.30pm, Mon to Thurs, 2pm to 12am Fri and Sat. Tel: 07 222 2128. Facebook.com/RakTrack
Dhayah Fort, found in the bay of Dhayah, Ras Al Khaimah is the last remaining hilltop fort in the UAE. Offering panoramic views of the lush greenery of Dhayah below, the historic site proves a brilliant viewing deck of the neighbouring mountains.
Dhayah Fort, Dhayah, Ras Al Khaimah, free.
Around 30kilometres south of Rak City is the mountainous village of Khatt. Thanks to the mineral-rich land, it’s home to the Khatt springs that reach depths of 90 feet – perfect for cooling off in on a hot day. You’ll find a total of three springs at the site, with entry charged at Dhs50.
Khatt Springs, Khatt, Ras Al Khaimah, Dhs50.
Al Jazirah Al Hamra
Once an important pearling, trading and fishing town, dating back to the late 17th century, the historical village was built by three local tribes, including the ruling Za’ab tribe in the 14th century. It’s now the only traditional town left in the UAE, and you’ll get to see all elements of a traditional town from centuries back including a fortress for defense purposes, a small market, several mosques and a variety of houses types. It’s rich with history, and a great place to learn more about coral-stone architecture, used along the coast of the UAE.
Al Jazirah Al Hamra, Ras Al Khaimah, free.